Posted on | February 2, 2010 | No Comments
Like everyone, I’ve been holding my breath each time rumors regarding “downsizing,” “right-sizing,” “cutbacks” or “sacrifices to the stock market gods” started swirling around the newsroom. Unfortunately, more often than not, most of the rumors have been followed by real layoffs of really talented friends and co-workers.
This past December 1st was no different. The newsroom was again rocked by talk of sudden “stealth” layoffs. One colleague had supposedly been laid off 30 minutes ago. “Who lays off one person? I asked. That doesn’t make sense. It wasn’t long before another colleague revealed that “an official announcement” was going to be made in ten minutes.
Before I knew it the company-wide e-mail message popped into my “in” basket. I remember saying aloud, “Oh boy, here we go!” It was clearly a notice about further “reductions,” but I’d made it only seven words into the first sentence when my phone rang. It was the head of my department wondering if I could come see him at my earliest convenience.
I never did finish reading that email. Whatever it said didn’t matter; I was experiencing it first hand. My more than 13 years at The Nation’s Newspaper were over.
Fortunately, exactly one month earlier, to the day, I had launched a personal blog — my own garden travel and photography website called “The Photo Garden Bee.” I had worked on it happily every evening and weekend out of sheer love.
The day after being laid off, I slept in and tried to process what was to become of me. After stumbling about trying to make a cup of tea, I realized I had not yet updated “The Bee” (as I call it). In a split second, I went from a stunned stupor to thinking, “Oh no! I have to create a new Bee post!” In that moment, I began to realize that my future was crystal clear. My journalistic life wasn’t over, it had only just begun. No matter what my job title had been for the past 14 years, I realized that from this point on, I was now “The Photo Garden Bee.”
Since then I have been getting up at the crack of dawn each day, traveling to gardens and writing my blog post. I have never been happier. I have no idea when a job offer will come in or how I’ll pay all those future bills, but I have “The Bee.” It’s my own. It’s whatever I want to make it each and every day.
I’m not technically a writer. I was a photo editor and just an assistant photo editor at that. Now I’m learning how to write and blog. I’m using all of my photo editing skills for “The Bee” and it’s been amazing!
I was a cog in a frantic wheel, and now I’m my own travel writer/photographer/editor/publisher. I have the freedom to paint my own journalistic future.
I’m taking a big leap this weekend with a booth at the Mid-Atlantic Home and Flower Show at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. I’ve made signs, I’ve rented a table and I’ll take with me about 300 signed and matted photographic prints of the “Daily Flowers” that I have been posting on my site. I have no idea how well the prints will sell, but I do know that it will be thrilling to sell my own work and spread the word about “The Bee” to potential site visitors. If you’re going to be in the area, I’ll be at booth #304.
It’s been two months since the layoff and I’m still unemployed. From my online store, I’ve only sold one $30 photographic print. My husband bought it. I’m fine with that. I simply love creating the blog each day. I love rustling up each day’s content. I love being the press person for my own stories and I love being home.
That, by the way, has been the other great gift of this layoff — time with the one I love. My husband and I are having a blast every day. I am no longer overworked and frazzled from doing the work of ten people and rustling up crazy amounts of content out of thin air on deadline. Now I just rustle up “The Bee!” My husband has his wife back and has never been happier. These days I spend a lot of time fist-bumping with him, while we say, “Go Bee!”
Getting laid off is difficult for everyone. And maybe I just lucked out. But blogging has changed my life and my future. I may succeed. I may fail. Either way I’m happier — with a healthy side scared. I am growing and changing into something I wasn’t before. Best of all, I am realizing potential I didn’t even know I had — and would not have known, had it not been for the layoff.
I can’t recommend getting laid off. But I can say, it is not at all what I expected. I’ll let you know how it goes. For now, it’s literally one post, one day at a time. I don’t know what the next day will bring, but I do know I have a lot more say in creating it.